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How does Dickens create atmosphere and suspense in the first chapter of Great Expectations?

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Introduction

How does Dickens create atmosphere and suspense in the first chapter of Great Expectations? Bethany Edwards. Dickens creates suspense and atmosphere effectively using many different techniques in the first chapter of 'Great expectations'. The chapter is written in the first person narrative, Pip as an adult looking back at his childhood. In the first paragraph there are examples of childlike humour in regards to his name and explaining how his nickname came to be.' My infant tongue could make nothing longer or more explicit than Pip'. This is very important as it portrays innocence, and we need to like the character, so we want to read on and find out more about him or her. On Page one we learn that it was a 'memorable raw afternoon' dickens uses very descriptive phrases to help picture the time of day. We are told that it was ' afternoon towards evening' indicating it was the time shadows are most likely to be seen putting across a spooky atmosphere with objects taking different forms. Words like bleak and raw are important as they describe the extreme conditions. Dickens uses colour imagery well within his descriptive writing, phrases like 'long black horizontal line' to describe the marshes and 'a row of long red angry lines and dense black lines intermixed' works well because using colours increases intensity, as well as using adjectives creatively. ...read more.

Middle

Pips sister has completely avoided telling him about his mother, father and brothers, indicating her harshness and stubborness, or maybe the experience of losing her parents and siblings has effected her personality and is too painful to talk about. In paragraph two Pip uses his vivid imagination to describe his family. His descriptions were 'unreasonably derived from their tombstones' and he also uses the word 'fancies' meaning mad ideas. He describes his father as a 'square, stout, dark man with black hair.' His mother as 'a freckled and sickly woman' and his brothers as each lozenges about a foot and a half long. Pip has been going to the church for years but never really realised the significance. Dickens uses black humour a lot during the first page. For example he believed his mother's name was actually 'also Georgiana wife of the above' and his fathers 'Phillip Pirrip, late of this parish' this allows us to feel sorry for Pip but be half smiling at the same time. We get the feeling that pip misses his family even though he has never met them, and maybe he wishes he had gone with them. The whole paragraph about his family steadily builds empathy, and poignancy. There is great tension between Magwitch and Pip. Pip is undersized and not strong the way he is described he comes across as vulnerable and we do feel extreme empathy for him. ...read more.

Conclusion

As soon as Pip replies 'there sir' Magwitch begins to get afraid and starts running away until he realises Pip is pointing at a grave. As soon as Magwitch realises Pip is an orphan he starts to change; he starts to feel sorry for Pip, Mainly because Magwitch was an orphan himself. Although Magwitch is concerned he never wants to show it and does his very best to hide it; e.g. ' who dye live with, supposing your kindly let to live, which I int made up my mind about yet.' Sometimes I do feel that because Pip is beaten by his sister its not the physical aspect of the torment, its the mental and emotional due to the unreliability of a strangers threats. In the paragraph at the bottom of page three Magwitch threatens pip with 'a dangerous young man.' This is primarily to scare Pip into pursuing his demands and also to keep up his 'hard man' act. It is so ironic that Magwitch should make up such a ghost story because there really is another convict in the graveyard so when Pip sees him and tells Magwitch the next morning Magwitch is left in a state of confusion, which is really quite amusing. All in all I think Dickens uses an array of techniques very well which create tension in many aspects of the first chapter especially between the characters. ...read more.

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